Coolbeth Back on Factory Harley XR750 at 2012 Grand National Twins Opener
The Harley-Davidson Screamin’ Eagle Factory Flat Track team will roar into action on May 27 at the historic Springfield Mile, the opening round of Grand National Twins competition in the 2012 AMA Pro Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship presented by Motorcycle-Superstore.com and Lucas Oil. Three-time Grand National Champion (2006-08) Kenny Coolbeth Jr. returns for a seventh season aboard the team’s Harley-Davidson XR750 motorcycles, tuned by veteran crew chief Craig Lager.
“The Harley Factory team is excited about this season, and I’m ready to go racing,” said Coolbeth. “We’ve been working hard in the off-season, and just completed two test sessions. We always seem to do well at Springfield, so it’s the perfect track for us to open the Twins series.”
In 2011 Coolbeth finished the Grand National season in fourth place, with wins on the DuQuoin short track and Hagerstown Speedway half-mile, and two other podium appearances in 20 races.
“We are poised to have a good season,” said Lager, who begins his eighth season at the helm of the Harley-Davidson Factory team. “We made some setup and tuning adjustments at the end of last season that we can build on this year. There’s only one new track on the schedule, so we have a good baseline for the tracks we know. The competition in this series is so strong, you have to earn every position on the track. It’s going to be important to be consistent. One bad night can cost you the championship.”
Joining Lager in the pits for 2012 will be former Grand National racer and national-event winner Mike Hacker, owner of the RIDE Academyflat-track training program. Hacker, who retired from racing in 2007, will be filling the role of assistant crew chief and rider coach for the Harley-Davidson Factory Team.
“The top riders in Grand National are evenly matched in terms of talent and fitness,” said Hacker. “That makes the mental aspect of racing very important. With my experience as a racer and team owner, I can help a rider stay focused on race day. I know Kenny’s riding style because I spent my career chasing him around the track.”
The Memorial Day weekend event at the Springfield Mile is a traditional stop on the Grand National schedule. Coolbeth has won three times at the track located on the Illinois State Fairgrounds, which hosted its first motorsports event in 1910. Coolbeth agrees that it will take consistency to win a fourth Grand National championship.
“There are too many good riders out there for anyone to dominate,” said Coolbeth. “I’d like to see us win three or four races, and always be in the top five. Qualifying is really important too, because you want to be in the Dash for Cash to get those bonus points at every race.”
The 2012 Grand National Twins schedule includes 11 events on half-mile and mile dirt tracks, including races at two venues not on the 2011 schedule and a return to the popular Indy Mile during the Red Bull Indianapolis GP weekend. The Santa Rosa Mile at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa, Calif. (Sept. 30) is a new stop for the Grand National tour. The Grand National series last appeared at the Tucson Half-Mile at Tucson International Raceway in Tucson, Ariz. (Oct. 6) in 2007.